Vaqueros Fall In WAC Semifinals
LAS VEGAS – Down 19 with 14:03 remaining, fourth-seeded The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) men's basketball team rallied to pull within three before falling to top-seed New Mexico State, a team receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll, 79-72 in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament Semifinals on Friday at Orleans Arena.
Graduate student Tyson Smith led UTRGV (19-16) with a career-high 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-10 from behind the arc, plus 5-of-5 from the line. Junior Lesley Varner II scored 15 points with six rebounds. Sophomore Javon Levi scored 12 points with four rebounds.
Terrell Brown led New Mexico State (29-4) with 19 points. AJ Harris scored 15 points. Clayton Henry scored 12 points.
NM State led 59-40 after a 17-6 run near the start of the second half. That’s when Smith lit on fire, hitting three three-pointers to help UTRGV score 13-straight points to pull within six.
Then, after Harris bookended a Smith three-point play with three-pointers of his own, Levi made four free throws and sophomore Greg Bowie II sunk a layup to bring UTRGV within 65-62 with 7:13 remaining.
NM State scored the next eight points before Varner made a three and converted a three-point play to fuel an 8-1 run to make the score 74-70 with 1:44 left.
UTRGV was still within four at 76-72 with 46 seconds left after a Varner layup, but that’s as close as they got.
The game was tight for most of the first half, with UTRGV taking the lead three times, including at 10-9 on a jumper by senior Terry Winn III.
NM State followed with a 10-2 run to take a 22-14 lead, but UTRGV pulled to within 25-21 on a Varner layup.
UTRGV was still within four at 29-25 with 4:08 remaining before NM State went on an 8-2 run to take its first double-digit lead at 37-27.